Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Seoul Garden Hotpot - bringing a curious foodie

NOTE: There's a new branch opened in the East-side!

Paya Lebar Square
60 Paya Lebar Road

Tel: 6341 6077
Fax: 6341 6076

My colleague, Sri and I are avid fans of Korean variety shows. Especially when they involve FOOD. And believe it or not, she hadn't tried ACTUAL Korean food, save for the occasional ones I cooked from home.

So when we happen to watch a show that seemed to involve a whole load of Korean food being cooked and eaten, we decide that it's about time that we head over and enjoy some for ourselves.

Seoul Garden HotPot seemed to be the only restaurant selling Halal ala carte Korean food. We head over to my favourite branch at Harbourfront because we deem ourselves 'too old' to head to town (another branch is at Cineleisure). After work, especially.

Hot cinnamon tea & white fungus sweet soup

My default drink order when I'm here. It's very easy on my stomach and help to digest the food better somehow.

The cold white fungus is a dessert that comes together with the set meal.

Kimchi of the day (cucumber namul)

Deep-fried oyster mushrooms (foregd) 
Deep-fried mid-joint wings (backgd)

The mushroom is a must-have order for starters. The fried chicken is chosen as our side in the dinner set meal.

Japchae (pan-fried seafood glass noodles)

My colleague was ever so curious about this dish. So we ordered it. She loved it.

Those glass noodles/vermicelli, called 'dangmyeon' are unlike the Chinese type we get here. These are made from sweet potato so it's thicker, chewier and darker. And pretty filling.

Beef Bulgogi Bibimbap

How can we introduce Korean food to someone without having them try the Bibimbap? Opted for the beef 'bulgogi' (sweet & garlicky soy sauce marinade) version. And of course, I opt to top up $1 for my fave 'kimgaru' (seaweed) rice.

I love that they add a generous heap of 'tobikko' (flying fish roe). A good tip is to add more 'gochujang' (spicy bean paste) sauce than what is given in the small platter. Small jars of them are available on the tables.

Totally enjoy digging at the crispy and charred rice bits at the bottom of the iron bowl!

Mandu (meat dumpling) hotpot

My colleague's definitely trying different things, most of which are reminiscent of what she's seen on the various variety shows.

This savoury and spicy soup was such a refreshing end to that particular weekday. With enoki & shitake mushrooms, cucumbers, kimchi, mung bean sprouts and chicken dumplings inside; it was indeed hearty and satisfying. We can't stop slurping down the soup!

Both of us walked out feeling really full, yet very, very satisfied. She loved the food so much, she came back again with her family!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Ayam Penyet Ria - Fried-food galore!

It was a rainy afternoon and we were seeking comfort food. Something familiar, homely yet.. different?

Settled on heading to Bedok Mall. Over there, it's either Ottoman Kebab & Grill or Ayam Penyet Ria. Seeing that a couple of peeps in our group aren't too keen on Mediterranean stuff, we settled on the latter.

Seeing a queue forming, I grabbed the menu and get orders from my family while in the line. Pretty frustrating when one heads to the toilet, one chased after my son and another can't hear me above the din.

Fried food galore ~ 

(clockwise from top left) Basket of emping melinjo & kerupuk udang mix, Bawal (pomfret) penyet, rice, boneless ayam (chicken) penyet, sup buntut (oxtail soup), oyster sauce kailan & fried enoki mushroom.

More fried food!

(clockwise from top left) deep-fried chicken skin (how sinful can that be??!), lele (catfish) penyet, Pempek Palembang & Soto ayam

That chicken skin thingy was my brother's choice. He was like, "It's very nice, ok??" At that time, the only fried skin I adore is salmon skin. But, I took a bite and end up sharing that basketful of delightful crisps with him. Nevermind my hubby's glare.

That Pempek Palembang was my order. My 1st experience with 'pempek' was a batch given by my masseuse, who hail from Palembang- a city in Southern Sumatra. It is that region's speciality. It's actually savoury fried fishcakes made with fish and tapioca starch. And eaten with this vinegary, sweet soy sauce.

Later on, I had another go at a cafe in Batam. Another time, hubby's niece brought back a box after a school trip to Palembang. I really should have given her more cash so she can bring back 3 boxes instead.

And now that I know it's served here… well, guess it'll be a permanent order whenever I'm here, then. Even though the portion seems a tad small.

And that hearty bowl of Soto ayam is what I'll order whenever my son is around. Can't go wrong with chicken soup and rice for kids. I like that this have that strong garlicky accent. I wonder if they topped this off with 'koya'. Some savoury powder made from crushed prawn crackers & garlic. It's commonly served with Soto Lamongan back in Jakarta.

I still can't gripe enough about the slow service, there. Seeing how efficient they were at the former branch in Bedok Point, it irked me to have to bear with at least 1/2hr before the first batch of food made an appearance on our table.

Maybe they have a change of proprietors? Whatever it is, I'm glad that the 'sambal' (chilli paste) here remained the same. And consistently spicy! Shiok!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

21 on Rajah - Weekday Dinner Buffet

Heard so many rave reviews and seen gorgeous food pictures of the buffet offering at the recently-Halal restaurant ~ 21 on Rajah, located within the new Days Hotel. My colleague, Sri and I have had enough and decide to check it out for ourselves.

We've always been 'buffet partners' and it's only right we both go together to explore.

Chose to go on a weekday to avoid unnecessary crowd.

The great service here deserves a mention (and a thumbs up). I did keep a lookout for points that will be noticed by those with initiative and they passed easily.

1- Reservation was made easily over the phone. When asked about different offerings between weekday & weekend dinners, they were upfront about the absence of the 'Rojak' station as well as crayfish in the seafood section.

2- I wonder if they'll make effort to the heavily pregnant me (made no special requests over the phone). As soon as we were shown our table somewhere in the middle of the dining area, the staff looked at me and asked, "Would you like a seat nearer to the front?" Awesome!! Our table was the NEAREST to the food.

3- We don't bother to be prim & proper when peeling the seafood shells. When I got up for a 2nd round of seafood, I came back to see a bowl of water with lemon wedges (for washing hands). My dining partner asked, "Did you request for this?" Nope, I did not. But that's another PLUS for their service!

4- The staff manning the roast station saw me taking pictures and told me hold back on taking a pic of the almost skeletal seabass, right then. He offered to call me when a freshly-grilled/baked seabass comes out.

5- The same staff offered to order a laksa for me from his friend manning the laksa counter. He even asked if I want more prawns. I declined, saying that I've had enough prawns from the seafood station. He replied, "Maybe you don't want. What about your baby?" Aww...

6- Staff offering to help bring a fully-laden plate to my table. I declined. Paiseh. 

Okay… on with the food!


This sculpture within the restaurant is just sooo cute!

The dining area 

White and blue contemporary concept. Very Santorini, somehow. Spacious. The hanging bird cages are a nice touch, though.

Desserts station!

Flanking the left side are the mousses & puddings in shot glasses and mini containers.

In the middle is a platter of local delicacies like Nyonya/Malay kuehs.

Beside it are the cuts of fresh fruits.

The plated tiers on the right are small cuts of cakes and more shot glasses of sweet things (I later learnt that they are Durian Pengat).

The sushi & seafood station

There weren't many varieties of sushi. Just Inari Sushi, California Maki, Corn Gunkan And Tobikko (flying-fish roe) Gunkan. Accompanying condiments are the slices of pickled ginger, wasabi and 'shoyu' (soy sauce).

As we've already been told that the crayfish won't be available on week nights, we didn't expect much. But there are still ample green-lipped mussels, fresh tiger prawns and snow crabs (claws and legs).

Accompanying condiments for these are the regular lemon wedges, Tobasco sauce, tomato salsa, garlic salsa verde and lemon-wasabi mayo.

The line of food stations

Fondue station

Located in a corner, beside the salad bar.

There are jars of marshmallows, biscotti & lady's finger biscuits. Then there are bowls of almond slivers, grapes, dried apricots and raisins, I think?

And of course- the fountain of flowing warm & decadent, dark chocolate sauce.

Salad & Cold Dishes/Appetisers bar

The appetisers:
(From top-left) Oriental chicken salad, Wild mushroom salad, many many slices of smoked salmon (OMG!) and potato salad.

Nothing drives me crazy like the salad bar.

In the left corner were all the salad condiments like pickled capers, garlic & beetroot. There are slices of fresh zucchini, julienned carrots and wedges of tri-coloured bell peppers.

The salad bar had a big bowl of mixed mesclun greens, large leaves of cos lettuce and another bowl of rocket/arugula. And various salad dressings. Also croutons. There's an empty bowl with salad tongs for people who prefer to mix their own salad.

Braised Lamb Shank

My favourite! I loooove lamb. Can't wait to try this!

Steamed Fish Fillet in Superior Soy Ginger sauce

Looks like a simple dish but the sauce does appear tantalising.

Roasted food station - Freshly-grilled/baked Moroccan Seabass

Apparently, the type of roasted/grilled meat served at this station change daily. I've seen pictures of the rib-eye steak online and since we knew that this station will still be available, I had assumed the steak will be there.

Turns out that day, the grilled item is Moroccan seabass. A huge one, at that.

Look at the hefty fish in all it's glory! All disappointment of not getting any red meat flew out the window at the sight of this beauty.

I so happened to be in the area when I heard the kitchen manager telling his staff to, "Get the fish ready!"

Hearing that, I scrambled to get my phone. The friendly staff who offered to call me when when a new fish is to be brought out; looked around and smiled when he saw me. He called me over. "Ready to take picture?" he asked.

"Of course!" And only then, did he bring out the he-yuge platter out onto the station, with the scent of grilled spices wafting from behind it. He let me take some pics and waited for my 'OK' signal before proceeding to carve the fish and serve the line of people.

Sibeh paiseh (very embarrassing) but he really kept his words!

Baked/grilled fish being served to individual plates

With every time he serve a slab of fish meat, he will repeat the same warning about small bones within the flesh. And to be careful.

With my plate of seafood & sushi

I only took 1 item from the Japanese food section - the California maki. Sushi = carbs = filling. Gotta' avoid that when having buffet!

I heaped on the prawns, mussels, snow crab claws and legs. Took dollops of tomato salsa, the delish garlic salsa verde and my favourite lemon-wasabi mayo.

Needless to say, I went for a 2nd round of these awesomeness!

My plate of salad/cold dish/appetisers

I didn't mix my salad in the bowl as I like to try out the various salad dressings available. So I heaped on the loose leaves of mesclun greens, julienned carrots and croutons with many dollops of the various dressings on the side.

Of course I sampled ALL the appetisers available.

The potato salad looked simple but it's tasty. Tasted almost like an Indian dish because it seemed spiced. The wild mushroom salad was tasty too (as ALL mushroom dishes are!).

The Oriental chicken salad, as expected; did remind me a lot like chicken rice. Really! Refreshing taste, though. Not gamey at all, despite it being a cold chicken dish (I'm skeptical about eating cold chicken meat).

And of course, the slices of smoked salmon. I dipped those in the lemon-wasabi mayo from the seafood station. With added wasabi. And some rocket leaves.

In the background is a bowl of warm pumpkin soup (soup-of-the-day). It's really delish and it's not the kind that's heavy on spice, so its more sweet-ish..

Hot foods - Western

(From top-left) Ricotta cheese tortellini, braised lamb shank, seafood in spicy tomato sauce, baked potato wedges.

The tortellini was something I've never had before so I was really curious. Too bad it was kinda' soggy after sitting too long in the cream sauce. The skin became too thick as a result and totally overwhelm the cheese filling inside.

The braised lamb shank had really tender meat and the sauce was nice. But the meat appear a lil' dry at parts (maybe due to over-exposure) and tasted a lil' gamey too. I countered that with the help of some garlic salsa verde.

The seafood in spicy tomato sauce was filled with a chock full of seafood varieties like mussels, scallops, calamari rings, prawns and fish fillet. The sauce came off a lot like marinara, albeit a bit more watery. I think it was supposed to be a more Mediterranean flavour?

The baked potato wedges was a simple dish, meant to accompany all the other dishes, perhaps.

Hot foods - Eastern/Oriental

(From top-left) Sweet & sour chicken, steamed fish fillet, grilled seabass and crabmeat fried rice. The only item from this section that I didn't take was the Chinese greens (Kailan) in oyster sauce.

The sweet & sour chicken and steamed fish fillet were pretty tasty! 

Took dollops of the wasabi-lemon mayo and garlic salsa verde to complement the fleshy grilled seabass meat.

The friendly chap at the roast/grilled meat section gave me a much bigger portion of the fish (as compared to what he gave others) and chose the tasty, crispy and well-seasoned section near the breast/pectoral fins.

The Moroccan spices totally complement the sweet fish meat! Whoa. 

After all that delicious goodness, the fried rice came off as a tad bland, though. Pfft. 


There's someone to prepare the laksa for you. Just make the request and a portion will be prepared on the spot. I think you can ask for more prawns, if you want. No 'see hum' (cockles) though.

We can self-serve the 'sambal' (chilli paste) and laksa leaves (Vietnamese mint) ourselves, after the piping hot bowl of laksa is served to us.

After this round of hot food, I felt that if I didn't move on to desserts, I might not have room in my belly for those sweet treats.

Especially when we sat sooo near the desserts station and we saw people already flocking to help themselves. I-must-not-miss-out!

The amount of local and western delicacies were more or less equal. Stuff like Nyonya/Malay kueh and puddings/cakes etc. There's even a pot of Bubur Terigu (I think this will change everyday).

Desserts plate 01

- Choc-dipped fruit & marshmallow skewers, lady's finger biscuit & biscotti -
   from the self-service Fondue station
- Klepon/Onde2/Buah Melaka           } From the dessert station
- Potent Durian Pengat in a shot glass }

Desserts plate 02

Small slices of Carrot Cake, Mango Cheesecake, Blueberry Cheesecake and Mango Pudding.

The carrot cake was a tad too sweet. The cheesecake flavour was too subtle. The mango pudding was nice to me, though.

Desserts 03

I love all these desserts in shot-glasses/mini containers thingy. Just so fun to eat, you know. Don't forget to grab a teaspoon, though.

(From front)
- Kaya mousse w/ Gula Melaka & Crumble
- Durian Pengat w/ Gula Melaka
- same as above but taste more… stale (maybe left out a lil' too long)
- Blueberry Panna Cotta?
- Mango Pudding
- Raspberry Panna Cotta?

The Kaya thingamagic was quite decadent. Rich kaya taste but not too cloying like you've eaten out of a jar of those green stuff. The cookie crumble on top complement it rather well.

The Durian Pengat was the bomb! Honestly, I've never tasted this type of Durian Pengat (supposedly 'Nyonya-style'?) before and apparently it's pretty popular at hotel buffets, nowadays.

Liked it so much that I went back to the dessert station and stealthily snuck one away before someone else grabbed it.

The panna cotta tasted a lil' 'meh'? Hence, the question mark. Can't really figure out if it's indeed panna cotta. Did taste a lil' milky, though.

The only station that I did not take a pic of was the drinks station (despite us being seated right behind it). It was a row of 4 drink dispensers; with Calamansi, Bandung, Iced water (w/ lemon) & Pineapple-flavoured drinks. I regularly topped up on the ice-water & calamansi. Nicely refreshing!

The only downer was that you gotta get you own ice-water. No one's gonna refill your glass, if you get what I mean. In fact, they clear the glass away once it's empty.

Those who are used to the much bigger array of food offering/varieties at buffet restaurants like Sakura International buffet might seem disappointed to see that the varieties are much less here. But I dare say that this place is all about Quality over Quantity. It's like having Carousel-esque food but lesser varieties of course. And therefore, much (much!) cheaper.

And we got 15% off because there's some Maybank card promotion going on. So we paid the net price of $32 only, sans the ++.

And honestly, I'm comfortable with the amount of varieties that they have here. Sufficient to satisfy me yet not too overwhelming that it became a burden to try everything out. This way, I can go for another round of my favourite/preferred food items.

21 On Rajah
1 Jalan Rajah

Level 1, Days Hotel (Zhongshan Park)
Singapore 329133

Tel: 6808 6847

Opening hours:
Mon - Fri: 6:00 am - 10:30 pm
Sat - Sun: 6:30 am - 11:30 pm